|Publication number||US7676376 B2|
|Application number||US 10/386,413|
|Publication date||Mar 9, 2010|
|Filing date||Mar 10, 2003|
|Priority date||Mar 10, 2003|
|Also published as||CA2442163A1, US20040181437|
|Publication number||10386413, 386413, US 7676376 B2, US 7676376B2, US-B2-7676376, US7676376 B2, US7676376B2|
|Original Assignee||U-Haul International, Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (30), Non-Patent Citations (1), Referenced by (8), Classifications (7), Legal Events (10)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present invention is generally a system for setting rates and more particularly, a rate setting system having a geospatial graphical interface to facilitate the rate setting function.
In the business of renting, cars, trucks, moving equipment, or other types of products, it is necessary to vary the rental rates depending on a variety of factors, such as the geographical location of the rental facility, seasonal fluctuations, inventory levels and other factors that are well known in the rental industry. In this regard, a central business concern for companies with multiple rental faciliies (collectively referred to herein as “entities”) will typically set the rental rates for its various entities based on the entities' geographical location, rental trends, seasonal specials and other factors. Typically, to accomplish the rate setting function, a user studies the various factors and sets the rental rates.
Under known systems, rates are set by selecting reference cities and setting a rate for each of the reference cities. However, if the business concern is large and there are hundreds of cities in which there are rental facilities, then it may not be practical to set individual rates for each city in which the rental business operates. Accordingly, as a practical matter, the rate selected for a reference city will also be the applicable rate for all cities in the area surrounding the reference city, e.g., within a pre-defined radius of the reference city. By grouping the cities together, the user's job will be more manageable.
The disadvantage of this known system is that because the reference city and surrounding cities are grouped together, the rate for the reference city and the surrounding cities must always be the same. The user may choose the city which he or she designates the reference city, however, once the reference city selection is made, the cities within the surrounding area will have the same rate.
It is, therefore, desirable to provide a system which allows the user greater freedom when selecting the specific area for which rates will be set and provide numerous options and tools to accomplish the rate setting task.
The rates set for rental products, or for any other service, is dynamic and must reflect the demands of the market at any given time. Accordingly, it is desirable to provide tools for the user that would provide them with market information and assist them in setting rates, even for a single city without affecting the rate of other cities within a pre-defined area, in a quick, efficient manner. Furthermore, it is desirable to provide a system which immediately broadcasts the set rate to the entities.
The rate and distribution system of the present invention enables an authorized user to more accurately and quickly generate specific rental rates employing a browser-based system. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the rate and distribution system includes an interactive graphical mapping interface depicting the geographic range of business. The mapping interface preferably comprises a computer with touchscreen capabilities giving the user a visual perspective of a geographical area. Upon defining a region, the system enables the user to set a rental rate for the region. In a more preferred embodiment of the invention, the system enables the user to identify the product or category of products to which the rate applies and select the date on which the rate should be effective.
Other objects, features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description. It is to be understood, however, that the detailed description and specific examples, while indicating preferred embodiments of the present invention, are given by way of illustration and not limitation. Many changes and modifications within the scope of the present invention may be made without departing from the spirit thereof, and the invention includes all such modifications.
The invention may be more readily understood by referring to the accompanying drawings in which:
Like numerals refer to like parts throughout the several views of the drawings.
As shown in
The graphical interface system 20 is preferably a geographical representation of the area in which the business operates. Specifically, the graphical interface system displays a map. The map could be of the United States, another country, a combination of countries, or any other geographical location, depending on the area of interest.
The geographical scope of business operations, as shown in
The rate and distribution system of the present invention allows the user to define the specific area for which rates will be set. The area can be a city, a state, or any other geographical region. The user has the flexibility of choosing the exact cities that can be grouped together for the purpose of defining a region for which to set rates or view marketing data. If desired, the user can set a rate for each city individually or a series of contiguous or non-contiguous cities. Changes made to a city or defined region will not affect the rate in nearby cities.
A preferred embodiment of the region defining feature of the present invention will now be described. The user preferably utilizes the graphical interface system 20 of the present invention to select the area for which to define a region. The selection of the area can be performed in a number of ways. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, as shown in
The graphical interface system 20 is preferably a touch-based mapping tool wherein the user manipulates the view by simply touching the area of interest on the map with a stylus or a finger, hereinafter referred to collectively as a selection tool. To define a region, the user can zoom into the area of interest with a selection tool or type in the name of a city. For example, the user can zoom into the west coast area of California, in the general area of Los Angeles (shown in
Upon arriving at the area of interest, the user can define a region. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, there are numerous methods of defining a region. One method of defining a region is to select a city and select a radius, as shown in
In some situations, the user may wish to exclude some of the cities from the selected region. For example, the user may wish to select a region within a 50 mile radius of Los Angeles, and then, exclude a few cities, such as Beverly Hills and Hollywood, from that region. Using the known rate setting systems, the user would not be able to exclude a city that was within a pre-selected radius of a reference city. However, the present invention enables the user to fine-tune the region, regardless of any cities' proximity to any other city.
Those skilled in the art will recognize that the graphical interface system 20 of the present invention and the selection features described herein can be utilized to define regions of varying sizes, scopes and shapes. For example, the user can select two entirely separate areas, such as the Seattle and Houston areas, and define them as one region or select them for the purpose of setting rates.
Description of the Rate Setting Feature
As best shown in
In addition to having a geographic variable that offers the user greater freedom in defining a region by providing a visual mapping reference, the rate and distribution system of the present invention preferably also provides a variable for spatial orientation. That is, cities or regions selected on the map can be designated as origins and/or destinations of the rate setting function. If the areas are designated as origins, then the rate will be set for all rentals originating from the selected areas. Conversely, if the areas are designated as destinations, then the rate will be set for all rentals going to those areas. Furthermore, rates could be set to cover particular routes by selecting origin cities and destination cities.
For example, as shown in
In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the system can save the user's selections in memory and enable the user to recall the selections for future use. This feature is especially useful if a user has a selected region or a selected route that is used time after time. In a more preferred embodiment of the invention, the system enables the user to edit the saved regions or routes, as desired.
Upon selection of an area, the system enables the user to set a rate for the selected area. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the system provides prompts and function keys to assist with the rate setting function. For example, as shown in
In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the rate and distribution system includes an effective date feature 58 that enables the users to set rates for a future effective date. For example, industry trends may indicate that certain seasons are busier than others and therefore require multiple rate changes. A user can therefore set a rate at the present time that will be effective for future sales or rentals.
Using the effective date feature of the present invention, the user can set future rates and change the rates as often as desired to accommodate the demands of the market. For example, the user can set a specified rate for July and select a different rate for August. Under prior known rate setting systems, rates are published periodically and are effective from the date of distribution of the new rates until a pre-defined expiration date. The rate and distribution system of the present invention enables the user to set a more accurate rate for an effective future date. Furthermore, using the rate and distribution system of the present invention, the user can ensure that even reservations made months in advance are reserved with the rate that accurately reflects the appropriate rate for the rental season.
If a user neglects to set a rate for a particular area, the system preferably has a default rate that will be used. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the system provides a warning to the user that a rate has not been set for a particular area and the default rate has been applied. The default rate is preferably applied to all new areas. Under the known prior systems, there would be a delay of 30 days for new areas to have rates. The present invention enables new cities and new areas to have rates immediately.
In another preferred embodiment of the invention, the rate setting feature of the present invention is completely automated eliminating the need for user intervention. By utilizing a series of business rules, the rate and distribution system considers a number of rate setting factors, including the area, current rate, rate history, and other factors known to those in the industry and computes applicable rates for all areas. The automated rate setting feature can be utilized alone or can serve as an initial rate setting function which can thereafter be adjusted by a user.
User Research Information
In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the rate and distribution system includes a searchable data server that provides users with information pertaining to the business requirements that would be helpful to the user in setting rates. The information would preferably be provided using a series of browser-based graphical interfaces. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, upon selection of an area, a pop up window 150, shown in
To provide this information to the user, the rate and distribution system of the present invention is preferably in data communication with a data warehouse. The data warehouse preferably provides information to the rate and distribution system. For example, the data warehouse would advise the user of pre-defined variables that would assist the user in setting rates.
In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the system also stores information pertaining to upcoming or historical events that may affect the or influence the variables used to set rates. For example, on certain holidays there may be an increase in certain rentals or sales. The system preferably stores historic data regarding such events and holidays and advises the user as the date approaches.
The rate and distribution system of the present invention preferably includes a security feature which only allows an authorized user to set rates for the area which the user is responsible. This safety feature prevents a user from setting rates for another user's area unless responsibility for that region has been delegated.
In the event that a user inadvertently selects an area that includes a city for which the user is not responsible, the system will set the rate requested for the portion of the area for which the user is responsible and provide a notification to the user that the rate has not been set for the area outside of the user's control.
The system preferably stores a list of all authorized users and tracks the degree of authorization provided to the user. For example, some users may only be given authorization to view information on the system while others are authorized to edit information in the system. In this regard, the rate and distribution system ensures that only authorized users are given access to the system and then, only to the extent authorized.
In a preferred embodiment of the invention, as shown in
The categories information feature 100 can preferably be edited only by an authorized administrator.
In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the rate and distribution system includes a cities feature, shown in
The rate and distribution system preferably enables the administrator to store and retrieve intelligence on competitors. As shown in
When new locations are opened, the rate and distribution system geocodes the new location and identifies it on a map. As shown in
The graphical interfaces and mapping tools of the rate and distribution system are preferably interactive. If the location is assigned to an incorrect position on the map, the system preferably allows the administrator to correct the mapped location manually. Accordingly, the maps used in the rate and distribution system are not only viewable but are interactive. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the position of the new location can be changed by simply clicking and dragging it on a map. By geocoding the locations and storing the lattitude and longitude of each location, the rate and distribution system of the present invention can provide the exact geographic address and directions to each location.
In addition to geocoding and mapping each location, the rate and distribution system preferably geocodes all internally used company boundaries and regions. By defining these areas and mapping them, the rate and distribution system ensures that these areas can be used for analysis or other business purposes.
The rate and distribution system of the present invention is preferably available to users on a network. The network has at least one computer-server for communicating with users. Communication with the users is preferably carried out using a browser program on a computer-terminal at a location remote from the computer-server.
In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the rate and distribution system is in data communication with a data warehouse for receiving information utilized in setting rates, as described above. Furthermore, the rate and distribution system is preferably in data communication with an entity database that provides the system with information pertaining to existing entities and alerts the system regarding the creation of new entities. After the rates are set, the system preferably communicates the rates via a browser to the rental locations. Furthermore, the rates are preferably provided to a website accessible by the public.
The embodiments described above are exemplary embodiments of a rate and distribution system. Those skilled in the art may now make numerous uses of, and departures from, the above-described embodiments without departing from the inventive concepts disclosed herein. Accordingly, the present invention is to be defined solely by the scope of the following claims.
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|International Classification||G06Q30/00, G06Q10/00|
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|Mar 10, 2003||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL, INC.,ARIZONA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:COLMAN, RENEE;REEL/FRAME:013871/0467
Effective date: 20030122
|Sep 3, 2003||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: WELLS FARGO FOOTHILL, INC.,CALIFORNIA
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL, INC.;REEL/FRAME:014943/0887
Effective date: 20030815
|Mar 15, 2004||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: WELLS FARGO BANK,MINNESOTA
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL, INC.;REEL/FRAME:014428/0762
Effective date: 20040301
|Mar 16, 2004||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: WELLS FARGO FOOTHILL, INC.,CALIFORNIA
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL, INC.;REEL/FRAME:015788/0926
Effective date: 20040301
|Apr 1, 2004||XAS||Not any more in us assignment database|
Free format text: SECURITY INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL, INC.;REEL/FRAME:014475/0859
|Jul 13, 2004||XAS||Not any more in us assignment database|
Free format text: SECURITY INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL, INC.;REEL/FRAME:014845/0369
|Sep 7, 2007||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL, INC.,ARIZONA
Free format text: PATENT RELEASE AND REASSIGNMENT;ASSIGNOR:WELLS FARGO FOOTHILL, INC.;REEL/FRAME:019795/0345
Effective date: 20050608
|Feb 11, 2008||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL, INC.,ARIZONA
Free format text: PATENT RELEASE AND REASSIGNMENT;ASSIGNOR:WELLS FARGO FOOTHILLS, INC.;REEL/FRAME:020487/0550
Effective date: 20071114
|Feb 29, 2008||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL, INC.,ARIZONA
Free format text: PATENT RELEASE AND REASSIGNMENT;ASSIGNOR:WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.;REEL/FRAME:020571/0803
Effective date: 20050608
|Sep 9, 2013||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4